Writing Fundamentals from Fifth Grade

The fundamentals don’t change. This is a notebook I used in fifth grade to write an essay (monograph?) about photography.

This should be fun to explore.

Right there on page one, they set us up for success.

Writing tips from fifth grade

It’s all here, the outlines, the notes, the rough draft. I look forward to digging in to this, what might be the first time I followed a process like this from start to finish, something that eventually becomes second nature to anyone engaged in longer-form writing. It’ll also be fun to see my fifth grade predictions about photography.

Advice To The Ten Years Ago Me

I was talking to Leah about a project I worked on ten years ago, and the question came up of what advice would I give that version of myself — from 2009 Dave to 1999 Dave. Here are the three thoughts that popped in to my head:

  • Don’t worry, AOL is not going to remain/become the browser/platform of choice.
  • Trust your instincts on digital engagement strategy; the business jerks will catch up to it.
  • Ask for forgiveness more often and permission less.

Stay classy, 1999 Dave.

Think Before You Fool

Trying out Anil Dash’s blog text embedding feature in honor of his timely reminder that “Your April Fool’s Day Joke Continues To Suck”:

Aside: Anil rigged up his blog recently so that you can easily embed his text-based blog entries on your site or blog, just like you embed videos or include photos. He places a javascript code snippet at the end of every entry that you can grab and embed. That’s what you see above. What do you think of how it works?

Update: Leah points out that Anil’s embed code doesn’t come through if you’re reading this entry via RSS. If that’s the case for you, click on through to my site, or here’s the direct link if you want to skip that and go straight to the article I’m including.

Unsolicited Advice For Industry Leaders

Don’t let the train of knowledge pull away without getting on board.
Board The Train Of Knowledge
From my copy of Bulletin Boards For All Occasions, by Margaret B. Randall, 1966

I publish this in reference to a knot of recent conversation reflecting on the habits of the Leaderboard types in the technology writing community. I say “writing” not “blogging” because really it doesn’t matter that their chosen medium is blogs. It’s not about the tools, it’s about use of the tools.

Josh, Josh, Jake, and Steve all shared thoughts recently about their growing irritation with the behavior patterns of a small subset of technology bloggers. Josh Kleinpeter and Steve Rubel point to the redundancy and misplaced focus of those who are sometimes referred to as the “A-List”, Josh Hallett realized he doesn’t really need to be reading many of those people any more, and Jake described what his recent interactions with a few famous names were like.

Along these same lines, things got so contentious recently that Brian Oberkirch felt the need to invoke the nuclear option Brother Senor Love Daddy to get everyone to cool out. Ethan Kaplan called out the ridiculous amount of attention paid to Robert Scoble’s carefully orchestrated Facebook/Plaxo standoff at the expense of any number of interesting and important things worth writing about. None of these dustups are new, but you’d think we could get a little better at this over time.

As Josh described, an easy remedy on the individual level is just to stop reading the people you feel you “need to” and the aggregators that only aggregate the news those people glom on to en masse. I’ve been unfollowing more and more people in Twitter and removing some of the feeds from my RSS reader that I once thought were essentials.

But as a remedy to those seemingly caught in or addicted to bad writing and publishing patterns, I wanted to offer the vintage advice above. No matter what your chosen medium happens to be, slow down. Listen with both ears and an open head. Think before you write/speak/comment. Read widely.

Suggestions For Mashable’s Top Ten Blog Conference List

Alexdc’s twitter stream pointed me to a list Mashable.com put together of their top 10 blogger-related conferences. I think they missed the mark on one glaring omission (SXSW Interactive, the highlight of my conference year), and gave too much weight to conferences that haven’t proven themselves yet, most notably PostieCon and to a lesser extent Rick Calvert’s Blog World Expo, which looks to have a pretty good head of steam. I have had great experiences at SXSW, BlogHer, Gnomedex, and the Bloghaus last year at the Consumer Electronics Show, and would put those first three and possibly the fourth at the top of my list of big events. I also applaud the inclusion of participatory events like BarCamp and PodCamp, and have found those I participated in to be extremely valuable. (Update:) And jeez, how could I forget to mention BlogOrlando, which this year had a truly international draw and was one of the best events of the year.

But I think overall this list might lead people away from what’s in front of them. The intro sets up the list as what to do if online interaction isn’t enough for you — “Blogging can be a lonely business. And if online blogger communities don’t satisfy you desire to mingle…” If you’re in that situation, I strongly recommend first looking to your local community and specific areas of interest, wherever you are. The proliferation of new social technologies online have only made this easier.

Your top ten list should start with:

  • Events in your area. Unless you are specifically trying to cover the national technology scene, if online blogger communities don’t satisfy your desire to mingle, use what’s around you first. Get to know the other writers, thinkers, and doers in your area. It’s a lot cheaper and more convenient than traveling nationally, and it just makes sense to connect locally first. In addition to keeping your eye out for PodCamps and BarCamps and the like, try meetup.com and upcoming.org, for example. Or noonhat, for smaller, ad-hoc meetups that can help you discover fresh faces. One of the great things about BarCamp Atlanta was that it hipped me to smaller groups that I didn’t know much about, like atlHack, the Jelly co-working intiatives, and the Ruby meetups here.
  • Things happening in the real world that you care about. Events about blogging itself are only part of the equation. Whatever it is you think about, write about, and participate in, seek out events in that world. This may, and in many cases will, have nothing whatsoever to do with technology or blogging. Plan your travel based on what really interests you, and pick one or two of the big national events about blogging-qua-blogging if your budget allows.
  • The event you organize. It takes good planning but not much more to bring together people you’d like to connect with locally. If there are no pre-existing gatherings for what you’re in to, try setting one up at a coffee shop.
  • (More of a conference hack for the big events) Events where people you want to connect with will be attending or speaking. Look over the rosters and attendee lists of these events. Are your professional and peer group going to be in attendance?

In short, don’t forget to look in your back yard, and nurture your own interests in addition to thinking about the medium as a whole.

Ask Your Vox BFFs: Neat or Lame?

The tall cylindrical LED lamp. I'm agonizing over it. Keep it or return it? Half the time I think it's perfect for the space, the other half I worry it's Spencer Gifts for grown ups. It can stay one color (controllable via a remote), or go through color progressions. I think when i leave it at unchanging white or unchanging red it looks pretty solid. And the color progression is soothing, almost like looking at a fish tank, but also has a tinge of gimmickry to it. What say you, Vox BFF's?

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